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Digital Bangladesh initiative halfway to completion

  • Published at 01:01 am December 9th, 2017
Digital Bangladesh initiative halfway to completion
The government is moving closer to achieving its goal of a Digital Bangladesh by 2021, with stakeholders saying half of the work is done with four years to go. Bangladesh has seen a massive rise in the number of internet users with an estimated 79.7 million people - almost half of the population - now online. The country is successfully leveraging this rising penetration and has earned $800 million in 2017 by exporting ICT products and services. High-tech parks are being set up and works on virtual reality have also started. IT experts said at the current pace, the government should comfortably achieve its goal. “Digital Bangladesh is now a reality,” said Zunaid Ahmed Palak, the state minister for ICT. “We have already finished 50% of the work (so) it will be complete before 2021.”

2017: A year of advancement

Palak said the ICT sector has seen much development this year with various plans adopted this year for the future development of the sector, including the finalization of the e-commerce policy and formulation of the ICT guideline (investigation) 2016 . “These include IoT (Internet of Things), augmented reality, motion picture, robotics and virtual reality. We have set up several IoT labs this year and works have started on virtual reality as well,” he said. This year saw the e-judicial project make progress and the beginning of construction of the world’s fifth largest data centre. An apps and gaming development project was also launched and work was started on transforming Moheshkhali into a “digital island”.

Youths getting opportunities

Various startup projects have been launched with government and private initiatives for new entrepreneurs in the ICT sector. These projects have helped train young entrepreneurs, implement initiatives, and arranged funds. Among them is the Innovation Design and Entrepreneurship Academy (iDEA), which was launched in July last year to promote innovation and design, and develop entrepreneurs. Stakeholders say the three-year, Tk229.74 crore project will play an important role in nurturing talents. A former additional secretary has been made head of the project. In addition to the academy, a number of venture capital companies have also started allocating funds for startups.

ICT Division road map

The ICT Division has come up with a roadmap for the development of the sector. Various progammes have been run this year under the short (two-year), mid (five-year) and long (10-year) term roadmap. “We were ahead in agricultural revolution but lagged behind in industrial revolution,” Bangladesh Association for Software and Information Services (BASIS) chief Mustafa Jabbar said. “We have risen from the rubble after independence. Given the situation we were in, we would not have been able to utter the word ‘robot’.  But now we can (and) in the Digital World, at least 20 robots built by us are being exhibited. This is our achievement in ICT.”

High-tech parks

Twelve high-tech parks which are under construction will create thousands of jobs and allow various local and foreign companies to work there. The government says it hopes to export software and ICT services worth $10 billion from these parks by 2030 and aims to earn $5 billion from them by 2021. Palak said the park authorities had come up with a plan that has three phases – two years, five years and 10 years. There is also a specific road map in the plan. Stakeholders say it will be possible to reach the goal if the short-, mid- and long-term plan is followed properly. Sources say the Bangabandhu High-Tech Park is being constructed on a 355-acre plot in Gazipur’s Kaliakair. For implementing the PPP model, 232 acres have been divided into five blocks and given to two developer companies. The construction of the Sheikh Hasina Software Technology Park in Jessore has been completed with the prime minister due to inaugurate it on December 10. High-tech park authorities say that local and foreign companies are showing interest as the parks cost less, have uninterrupted power supply, high-speed internet connection and good communication facilities.

Other achievements in the ICT sector

Work is underway to build Sylhet Electronic City on a 163-acre plot for the development of the ICT sector. Sheikh Kamal IT Training and Incubation Centre is being built in Natore. It is being set up by repairing and modernizing the usable buildings of an abandoned jail. In addition, a software technology park has been built at Karwan Bazar’s Janata Tower. The fourth floor of the building has been allocated for various companies to help create new entrepreneurs. In Rajshahi’s Nabinagar, the Barendra Silicon City has been constructed and another IT park is being built on a 31-acre plot. State Minister Palak said fibre optic connection had been successfully extended to the upazila level with a goal to provide the service to all unions in the country by 2018. Palak said work was underway on the construction of 554 Business Process Outsourcing centres, and that 2,100 Sheikh Rasel Digital Lab and Language centres out of 2,972 have already been built.  Work on the remaining 971 is in the final phase. l   This article was first published on banglatribune.com